by Dr. Lisa Lenhart, Ph.D.; Child Psychologist http://llenhartphd.webs.com/
This is the time of year that kids of all ages are making some decisions about whether to join a club, or team, or group of some sort (drama, marching band, etc). These activities are healthy for kids in many ways, and offer opportunities for them to learn life skills. Because all groups, teams and clubs encounter bumps along the way, children who have joined these groups have the opportunity to learn about flexibility and learn that it is okay if something is not exactly as expected- it can still be fun.
- Frustration tolerance comes in when the team does not win a game, or members in the club choose a different activity than the one a child desires, or when the child realizes that the skills required for the group are not intrinsic and there are many things they need to learn in order to be successful. Being able to manage the frustrations that come with participation in a group/team such as this allows the child to develop the ability to tolerate frustrations in other aspects of his or her life.
- Communication skills are important on teams and in groups, just as these skills are important in life. Within these smaller group settings, kids are offered the opportunity to engage in active listening- hearing what other people have to say, following up on directions or feedback, asking follow up or clarifying questions, and adding an additional comment or idea to the one proposed. In the process of listening to other people’s ideas, children begin to develop greater capacity for perspective taking and recognizing that everyone has a different point of view. Hearing many and different ideas being proposed provides children with real life exposure to the concept of perspective taking, and can help them develop a greater appreciation for the different perspectives we all have. Within any small group setting such as the ones being referred to here, the concept of team work comes alive. All members need to find a way to work together and to create the sense of “we” and “team” rather than “I” or “me”.
- A Sense of Belonging is a very important aspect of joining groups or teams is the sense of belonging that children experience when participating in the group. Finding people who have similar interests, whether they be art, music, sports, gaming, books, computers, or something else, is one solid foundation for developing friendships, and recognizing this early in childhood or adolescence helps create this foundation that will stay with them for life.
So in addition to perceiving these groups or clubs more simply as a way for kids to have something to do, remembering the life skills that can be developed in this context, and steering conversations about participation in groups to include the ideas included here will allow your child to develop a more conscious awareness of these aspects of social interaction and communication skills. In this way, the experience is enriched and will clearly become an avenue for learning life skills.